A ROW has been ignited between union leaders and fire chiefs over the handling of two wildfires which destroyed forests and moorland.

Cleveland Fire Brigades’ Union has hit out as they claim crews at the scene were stretched to the limit, while “complacent” management chose not to call in firefighters waiting on-standby.

A claim which was been dismissed by Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton who said the response to the fires had been managed professionally.

Davy Howe, Cleveland FBU secretary, said: “The complacent attitude of the brigade is astounding. Crews were crying out for support, while management gambled and left willing and able firefighters at home. Additional firefighters at the scene would undoubtedly have been safer and more effective in tackling the huge fires.

The Northern Echo:

A part of Guisborough Woods was devastated by fire Picture: Richard Johnston

“The clear consequence of the cut to the number of fire engines is that fewer firefighters can attend a fire. As a result, we’re pleading with the public to keep safe and be vigilant – whether out in the countryside, at home or at work. After relentless cuts to the service, Cleveland firefighters are no longer equipped to respond to multiple large scale fires.”

The brigade spent the weekend battling fires in four main areas – Guisborough woods, Eston Hills, Liverton Moor and the most recent Errington Woods were all affected.

The Northern Echo:

Eston Hills fire

Chief Fire Officer Ian Hayton reassured people that their safety was paramount.

He said: “We attended a number of fires in the Guisborough Woods/Eston Hills area over the last ten days. These fires were effectively extinguished by our professional fire crews who worked extremely hard in arduous conditions. They were extinguished without any of our communities being put at risk.

"Firefighters and Commanders at the incidents ensured that the required resources to deal safely and effectively with the fires were deployed. For over a year Cleveland Fire Authority has been implementing our agreed and published Integrated Risk Management Plan (IRMP), maintaining the identified 18 fire appliances that significant analysis, research and assessment demonstrated are required to keep the communities of Cleveland safe.

"In addition to our dedicated fleet of fire appliances we have contingency arrangements in place to call upon immediate deployment of neighbouring brigades and recall to duty of our own staff if required.

"Over the last ten days we did not need to supplement our resources as through effective management of our staff, fire appliances and specialist off-road vehicles, we were able to extinguish forest and grass land fires and still have fire appliances available to deal with any other emergency incidents.

"Cleveland Fire Brigade prides itself on having public safety as its number one priority. We are disappointed that the FBU has chosen to engage in scaremongering which unnecessarily alarms the public.”